ALLEN COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY
[ 3 1833 00068 9023
Gc 974-402 L73s No, 3, 1908
Littleton Historical Society
Proceedings of the Littleton
Digitized by the Internet Archive
Published by the Historical Society
Some Reminiscences of Seventy Years.
Prepared by Hon. George W. Sanderson for the Littleton Historical
Society, and read Feb. 22, 1907, by his daughter,
Miss Fannie A. Sanderson.
Others from time to time have entertainingly and clearly set forth in
defined outline records of Littleton's history, either in its civic and social inter-
ests or in its educational issues and religious developments. Perhaps I may
be permitted to relate at random some of my personal reminiscences during
the past seventy years.
From my earliest memory, Littleton has been characterized for temper-
ance, sobriety and good order, a state of affairs only possible by the vigilance,
loyalty and high endeavor of its citizens.
Although the population of the town has changed but little, it has had
its own special problems to meet.
In 1836 the Legislature passed an act making Henry Jaques, Abijah
Goodridge and Hamilton Davidson and their assistants a corporation by the
name of the Charlestown Branch Railroad Company, and authorizing them
to build a railroad from Swett's wharf in Charlestown to a connection with
the Boston & Lowell railroad, near the McLean Asylum. In 1842 an act
was passed incorporating the Fitchburg railroad, authorizing the building of
the road from a point on Charlestown branch road to Fitchburg. Later the
Charlestown branch became the property of the Fitchburg railroad. In 1847
authority was granted this company to extend its road into Boston, and the
old stone depot was built and trains first ran into Boston over this road in
that year. Alvah Crocker was the first president of the Fitchburg railroad.
The road was opened to Waltham, Dec. 20, 1843; Waltha'm to Concord,
June 17, 1844; Concordv to South Acton, Oct. 1, 1844; South Acton to
Shirley, Dec. 30, 1844; Shirley to Fitchburg, March 4, 1845.
I was an interested observer when, about 1843, the first gravel was
moved near my house for building the Fitchburg railroad. When it was
extended, in the following year, to Shirley, my neighbor, John A. Kimball,
helped to lay the rails. In October, 1845, the road was completed to
Fitchburg. For a number of years there was but a single track of light and
slender rails, with only three accommodation trains to and from Boston a day;
and in size and character the cars and engines were small and greatly inferior
to those of to-day. But compared to the jolting, uncomfortable and slow
stage-coach, they were palatial.
A cooper shop, successively owned by my great grandfather Moses, my
grandfather Samuel and my uncle Samuel, standing near where Asahel W.
Sawyer's store now stands, was used as the freight house before the first
depot was built. In the winter of 1844-45 the first railroad depot, consisting
of a room for passengers, another for freight and a dwelling and ell in the
center, was erected near where the present station now stands. Joseph
Warren Smith, a younger brother of Horatio N. Smith, was the first depot
master. In 1879 this depot was moved south onto the railroad company's
land, and made into a two-tenement dwelling house, and the present depot
The railroad route through Littleton was probably determined partly by
the opposition from those controlling business on the old stage lines from
Boston to Keene, N. H. They felt that a railroad in their vicinity would be
ruinous to their interests. Rather, the three railroads that now touch the
town at North, East and West, supplanting the old stages and heavy teaming,
have affected most favorably the business life of Littleton as well as its social
Over the stage route it was customary for the farmers to go to Boston
with produce. When a young boy, I occasionally went with my father in a
one-horse team to carry farm products for himself and his neighbors to Hiram
Jacobs of Charlestown. Mr. Jacobs, whose grandchildren now reside here,
had been a Littleton boy, and was then doing a prosperous business in a store
which he had established in Charlestown Square. We would start toward
night, driving as far as Viles' Tavern, Lexington, where we would feed the
horse and enjoy our own luncheon. In that way, we did not arrive in
Charlestown until early in the morning. On one of these trips we viewed a
torch light procession, probably when Van Buren was a candidate for Presi-
dent, for I well recall the lines floating from the banner; they had a rhythm,
which I have never forgotten:
Is the man ;
Is no comparison."
As with other New England villages, Littleton suffered appreciable loss
in the cause of the Civil War. The sturdiness and loyalty that her sons
had shown for their native town, then became a pride to devote to their
country, and our town continued recruiting and paying bounty until the end
of the war, furnishing one hundred and seventeen men, eighteen more than
her quota called for. A list of eligible men, between the ages of eighteen
and forty-five, was kept in the provost-marshal's office in Concord, and if a
sufficient number did not respond to the President's call for volunteers, a
draft was made. In Lowell arid other places, I remember listening to the
mustering officer as he stepped in front of the ranks of soldiers holding up
their right hands, and administered the following oath :
'' You solemnly swear to bear true faith and allegiance to the United
States of America, to serve her honestly and faithfully against all enemies or
opposers whomsoever, that you will obey all orders of the President of the
United States and the orders of all officers appointed over you."
The town officers for that period were :
Selectmen, 1861-1862. Selectmen, 1863, 1864 and 186S.
John F. Robbins, Joseph A. Priest,
John Cutter, William Kimball,
James A. Parker, George W. Sanderson.
The Town Clerk in 1861, and through the war, was William Kimball.
In 1861, the Town Treasurer was William Chamberlain, and in '62, '63,
'64 and '65, Luther White. Of the above-mentioned officers, the writer of
this article is the only surviving member.
My first vote for Governor was cast November, 1851, for George S.
Boutwell of Groton. As a delegate, I attended in 1853 a political conven-
tion in Fitchburg, over which Robert C. Winthrop presided, and at which
Emery. Washburn was nominated a candidate for Governor. At this con-
vention, Dr. Bell, Superintendent of the McLean Asylum, a delegate from
Somerville, was called upon for a speech. When he did not quickly come
forward, on all sides were heard the words ' Bell! Bell!" When Winthrop
said "If I could get hold of the string of that bell I would make it ring,"
Dr. Bell responded.
During the session of 1877, when I was a member of the Legislature,
the question of Woman's Suffrage was agitating the public. I recall a
remark made by William Lloyd Garrison in favor of this subject during a
recess of one of the sessions. He said the friends would stick to it until it
was accomplished, as Mordecai did at the King's gate. On the same plat-
form sat Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone.
The following incident Lucy Stone referred to on that occasion : She
had spent several days canvassing the community in Westford for funds in
aid of the church. At one of the church meetings she voted. The black-
eyed minister, who presided, took exceptions to her vote, saying, " There's
a woman voting!" She thought his position was most unjust, after she had
done most of the work previously.
That the scope of school work has enlarged since my school days is
evident from reading the school reports from 1849, the earliest date that I
have been able to find any in printed form, and of course my school days
were previous to that date. Although in some lights, it may be a misfortune
not to receive the advantages of the modern school, I feel that it was of
incalculable benefit to me to come under the educational influence of the
schools of my day. Some figures have always stood out in my memory with
especial regard. I knew Rev. William H. White, both as a school official
and as a minister, being superintendent of schools for twenty-three years,
including all my school days and those of my wife, and it was he who per-
formed our wedding ceremony in 1851. He always considered every school
and every scholar as a personal charge, and thus stimulated the pupil's ambi-
tion by encouraging words.
In the Autumn of 1843, Miss Martha Carter, a niece of Rev. William
H. White, taught a private school in the old brick school-house at the
Center; she was an excellent teacher. Some of the older scholars were
Lucy M. Hartwell, later Mrs. J. A. Harwood, Susan Smith, Henry Warren,
John W. Parker and myself. She became the wife of Dr. Wellington of
When my father took me to her private school, and stopped at the
residence of Mr. White, where Miss Carter was boarding, Mr. White
stepped to the wagon to greet me. After father had referred to the mission
upon which he came, he said, "if my boy does not behave send him home."
With a broad smile, Mr. White benignantly answered, 'I know he will."
At once this put me on my best behavior. I quote this instance to illustrate
his whole attitude toward the youth of the day. Mr. White was one of the
best men I ever knew. Perhaps encouragement made a deeper impression
upon me, for the methods of discipline seemed severe at times. Two leading
requirements of a teacher were ability to govern boys and to successfully mend
a quill pen. I have not forgotten the unequal contest between two school
boys of my childhood. They were violating the law of good order by some
trifling misdemeanor, when they were called to stand directly before the
school and instructed to pull each other's hair. One wore his hair closely
cut and the other rather long. Under the necessity of the case, one alone
received punishment. If a boy was discovered drawing upon his slate, any-
thing except for the demands of reading, spelling and arithmetic, he w r as
censured, a marked contrast to the attitude toward drawing in our public
From Thomas Garland, teacher of the West School, I gained my first
interest in geography ; as he had followed the sea, the knowledge he gave
was practical and excellent. It had the salt air in it.
Mr. Garland married Harriet Kimball, daughter of Daniel Kimball of
Littleton, and settled in Dover, N. H., where they both died. Mr. Garland's
sister was the wife of Rev. Oliver Ayer, who, from 1837-1843, was the Baptist
minister in Littleton.
A scholarly man, of dignified bearing and musical temperament, who
taught in the North, South and West districts, was Otis Wight of Westford.
He was a contemporary of Miss Hannah Dodge, and after he went to
Washington as principal of a private school, he often returned to this town,
and held a warm interest in his former pupils.
Of necessity, the length of the public school year was short, but private
schools were supplemented in vacations.
When eight years of age I attended a private school taught by Miss
Hannah Rogers, a woman of ability and influence. I now have in my
possession, in her own handwriting, a receipt for tuition, of which the
following is a copy:
"Littleton, Nov. 21st, 1838
To Hannah Rogers, Dr.
To tuition of George S., 9 weeks $2.25
Miss Rogers died July 2d, 1847, aged 37 years, and was buried in the
Old Cemetery at Littleton Common. She was the daughter of Mr. Eri
Rogers, who kept a store near where Central Hall now stands.
There are many other teachers of whom I have pleasant recollections,
among them Miss Susan A. Kimball, who married Air. John F. Robbins,
Miss Mary A. Kimball, later Mrs. Augustus K. Porter, and Miss Elizabeth
Kimball, who married George Stevens, Esq., afterwards District Attorney
for Middlesex County.
Some of the larger scholars were Amelia Breck, who married William
P. Tilden of St. Louis, Missouri, Sarah Breck, who married Marshall Hager
of Richmond, Maine, who afterwards was a ship builder, Hannah Dodge, and
Emily Wright, a sister of Mrs. James A. Parker.
When I was about ten years old, a religious interest swept through the J
town as an outgrowth of the preaching of William Miller. He had been,, i'' -y
holding meetings in the Baptist Church, a brick building situate at the corner \^/^ '
of King Street and the road leading to Charles P. Hartwell's house, and had
gained enthusiastic followers in this section. Anxious to promulgate his
truth, camp meeting grounds were opened in a hard wood grove on the
southeast side of the lower Harvard road, on what is now the pasture land
of J. H. D. Whitcomb. This well-chosen spot was made attractive with all
appointments. A pulpit of rough boards was hung with pictures symbolizing
illustrations of the Second Advent prophecies ; the seats had a capacity for
hundreds and in the background were tents. The line of travel for these
meetings passed my father's house, as day after day they came in single teams
and in stages from the neighboring towns, and from Lowell, Marlboro, and
even more remote distances. After spirited singing that pealed through the
forest, men of talent expounded the doctrine of the Millerites or Second
Adventists, as they were called, and exhorted the hearers to prepare for the
second coming of Christ and the immediate destruction of the world. During
the service, the congregation was urged to contribute generously, and jewelry,
keepsakes, money, and family heir-looms were sacrificed under the excitement
of the hour.
Expecting the end of the world about the year 1843, secular business
was suspended, and they prepared as they would for death. Many converts
who had raised fine crops of corn and potatoes refused to harvest them.
They gave away their cattle and household possessions, and waited in some
fitting place for the Lord to appear. I think Mr. Miller was not a brilliant,
but a sincere man, and his apparent sincerity carried weight.
Seventy years of a man's life sees many changes, and, while we still cherish
the memories of the past, we look forward with great hope to the future:
" For still the new transcends the old
In signs and tokens manifold."
GEORGE W. SANDERSON.
Memoir of Edward Frost, Civil Engineer
By George A. Kimball,
Chief Engineer Boston Elevated Railway.
Read Nov. 2, 1908.
Edward Frost, Civil Engineer, who died in Newton, July 9, 1908,
represented one of the early New England families, his ancestor, Thomas
Frost, having received a grant to lands in Framingham, Mass., from Gov.
Thomas Danforth under date of March 25, 1693. Mr. Frost's father, Dr.
Edward Frost, was born in Framingham, April 1, 1798, the eighth of the
ten children of Elisha and Miliscent (Winch) Frost. Dr. Frost graduated at
Harvard University in 1822, and was principal of the Framingham Academy
in 1823. He married Sarah Dix, daughter of Deacon Benjamin Dix, a
prominent citizen of Littleton, Mass., and was a practicing physician in
Wayland, where Benjamin Dix Frost was born in 1830 and Edward Frost
May 23, 1832. Their boyhood days were spent in Wayland where they
attended the public schools. Soon after their father's death in 1838, Mrs.
Frost and her two children changed their residence to Framingham, Mass.,
where the boys attended the Framingham Academy, of which the father,
Dr. Edward Frost, had been the principal. In 1842 and 1843, Edward
Frost attended the Lawrence Academy at Groton, Mass. After 1844,
Mrs. Frost and her two sons made their home with her father, Deacon
Benjamin Dix, in Littleton, Mass., and Edward continued his studies at
Lawrence Academy, from which he graduated in 1846. While at Groton
he proved himself to be an excellent scholar, and in a public exhibition given
November 18, 1845, delivered the valedictory oration in Latin. Hon. Sam-
uel A. Green, since known as the Groton Historian, gave the salutatory in
Latin, and Hon. Joseph A. Harwood of Littleton had a prominent part.
Immediately after Mr. Frost graduated from Groton he entered Har-
vard University at the age of 14, where he made great progress as a scholar
and graduated with honors in 1850. He was a member of the Phi Beta
Kappa Society, to which are admitted only those students who have
attained high honors in scholarship. At the Commencement Exercises held
July 17, 1850, his part was a dissertation entitled "Satirical Literature as a
Source of Historical Delineation."
Mr. Frost then entered the office of Stearns and Sanborn, Civil Engi-
neers of Charlestown, Mass., the same office, then Felton and Parker, in
which his brother, Benjamin D., started in his professional career four years
previous. In this office he followed the usual course of study and practice
of civil engineering, fulfilling engagements during subsequent years in New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Caro-
lina, Florida, Maryland and at Washington, D. C. In 1861 and earlier, he
was engaged with the late General M. C. Meigs on the construction of the
Washington aqueduct which is carried over the Cabin John Creek by a
beautiful arch bridge, the longest stone arch span in America. During the
Civil War he superintended the construction, under military direction, of
many of the defences at Washington. Commencing in 1863, he was en-
gaged as chief engineer in charge of building permanent fortifications at
Forts Taylor and Jefferson, Florida. On the completion of the work in
Florida, he was engaged in building a railroad in North Carolina, from which
he was called home to Littleton on account of the serious illness of his
mother, whose death followed in 1866, after which Mr. Frost returned to
In 1867 he relinquished his work with the U. S. Government and
opened an office in Boston with his brother, Benjamin D., under the name
of Frost Brothers, Civil Engineers, and for many vears occupied an office at
No. 68 Cornhill.
In May 1868, his brother, Benjamin D., was appointed Chief Engineer
of the Hoosac Tunnel and Troy and Greenfield R. R. and successfully com-
pleted the great tunnel under the Hoosac Mountain. In the early studies
for the tunnel he was assisted by his brother Edward.
Edward Frost was engineer for the Town of Somerville, Mass., from
1868 to 1871, and designed a general system of sewerage and other municipal
improvements. In 1869, he was appointed Chief Engineer of the Massa-
chusetts Central R. R., extending from Boston through the central portion
of Massachusetts to Northampton, and continued in charge until 1875. In
1872 he made a study of the proposed improvements in Miller's River and
published a pamphlet entitled " Preliminary Discussion of the Miller's River
Nuisance and its Remedy." He continued in general office practice until
1890, when he retired.
At Cambridge, Mass., on October 4, 1871, Mr. Edward Frost married
Ellen Maria, daughter of Rev. Dr. A. B. Muzzey and Hopsibeth (Patterson)
Muzzey. They resided in Boston for a year, then in Cambridge and later
in Littleton. Mrs. Frost survives him and lives in Newton, f There are no
About the year 1868, he again made his residence in Littleton, Mass.,
and with his brother owned and occupied the old house on the main road
from Littleton Centre to the station of the Fitchburg R. R., formerly
occupied by his grandfather, Benjamin Dix. While a resident of Littleton,
he was much interested in town affairs and took an active part in the town
meetings. He was one of the committee for building the town hall, a mem-
ber of the school committee from 1888 to 1890, one of the first cemetery
commissioners, and at the time of his death was a member of a committee
for printing the vital records of Littleton. Lender his leadership, the two
cemeteries in the town were materially improved, and arrangements made for
perpetual care of the lots.
Mr. Frost was always active in religious matters, and was connected
with the First Congregational (Unitarian) Church in Littleton and served
the church as deacon, also as clerk, and was at one time a member of the
advisory committee. He was on the committee for revising the church
covenant, and was instrumental in forming the " Curator's Club," the mem-
bers of which paid a certain sum annually for church affairs and improvements.
He was the prime mover in the formation of the North Middlesex Unitarian
Conference. He was interested in all the affairs of the church and society,
and at a meeting of the former read a very interesting and valuable paper
entitled " The Visible .Church." Mr. Frost always enjoyed music and
commenced its study with his mother, who was presented by her father
with an organ which was the first musical instrument of its kind in the
town. After he commenced business in Boston, he served as organist at his
church in Littleton and was active in organizing a musical club in the town.
Mr. Frost was one of the original members of the Littleton Historical
Society and contributed a paper at its first regular meeting held September
23, 1894, entitled " Notes of a Survey Made August 25, 1894, on the Slopes
and Near the South Westerly Base of Nashoba Hill." Later he read a
paper entitled "The Error on the Shattuck Monument." The following
year he contributed a paper entitled " Our Great Elm," which formerly
stood near the westerly bank of Beaver Brook and in the rear of the house
formerly occupied by Alonzo Hartwell, and two other papers entitled
"Obituary of Joel Proctor" and "What Ought the Town to do for the
Better Preservation of its Records."
That Mr. Frost was an extraordinary man in many particulars was
exhibited during his school days and college life, where he displayed a
remarkable grasp of all the studies which he undertook. His thorough
education was manifest during his whole life. It was carefully watched over
by his efficient and devoted mother in his early days, and was rounded out
and completed during his course in academies, college, and subsequent work
as a civil engineer. Those of his acquaintances who knew him best recog-
nized and appreciated his ability, and his fine qualities of mind and heart
which endeared him to all who were privileged to share his friendship.
The writer feels under great obligations to Mr. Edward Frost, who
advised him in regards to his first studies in civil engineering, later received
him in his employ, and gave him valuable training and encouragement in the
first practice of his profession. He well remembers t^ie many precepts
which Mr. Frost laid down for his guidance, and today appreciates, more
than ever before, the high scholarship, the broad mind, the kind heart, and
able leadership of his Chief.
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